The challenge of sustainability in the growing home delivery business

Urban Transport

As part of the new knowledge and innovation space, Ineco Impulsa, the engineering and consulting firm of the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, has presented the "Última milla" report. This second study analyses the sustainability of the growing demand for parcel services in urban environments.

Driven by the rise of eCommerce, which has increased by more than 200% in the last seven years, together with the traditional supply to retailers, these home deliveries are having a greater impact than ever on the quality of life of citizens, the environment and the economy.  With the evolution of the pandemic, it has been possible to see that the changes in trends that occurred in 2020 have been maintained in some branches of activity such as hypermarkets, supermarkets and food stores, whose turnover is still among the largest in eCommerce with 3.2%, becoming within the top 10 of the activities with the highest turnover in eCommerce.

Although the growth of e-commerce in our country is clear, with a greater volume of business every year, at European level there are countries that have a higher percentage of turnover in this type of commerce, with Spain occupying 11th position, a ranking headed by Iceland, the Czech Republic and Belgium.

Urban logistics challenges

Home deliveries have become co-responsible for the increased daily intensity of vehicles on our roads, greenhouse emissions, noise, as well as the misuse the dilemma of the allocation of public space.

According to data provided by the Alliance for Logistics Innovation through Collaboration in Europe, urban freight transport contributes more than 15% to traffic in our cities, accounting for 25% of CO2 emissions, 30% of NOx and 50% of particulate matter emitted into the atmosphere in this environment.

In view of this situation, and in order to respond to the challenges facing the urban distribution of goods sector and the logistics sector in general, the study conducted by Ineco highlights the need to act on four levers of change.

The first of these is technology, making progress in pilot tests and trials with drones and small autonomous robots, as well as the promotion of the electrification of fleets dedicated to the urban distribution of goods and the increase in refueling infrastructure through the aid made available by the Spanish government through the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan.

In this second area, infrastructure and logistics, the implementation of urban microhubs is one of the key solutions for the transformation of urban distribution of goods, enabling the use of smaller and more environmentally friendly vehicles for deliveries.

The third axis is regulation, with the capacity of public administrations to legislate regulations and ordinances that not only cover traffic regulation, but also aspects related to land use or the deployment of new technologies, data collection and use, transparency and privacy, etc., being considered fundamental.

And as a fourth lever, collaboration between the different players, creating stable spaces to channel the problems of the logistics sector and reach a consensus on specific actions that respond to present and future needs.

The "hyperservice" culture

This study shows that there is an increasing demand for shipments with shorter delivery times, where the possibility of tracking the package is available and all this with lower shipping costs, in a context in which approximately 1 in 3 transactions linked to e-commerce are associated with physical deliveries.

The high level of consumer demand, the ease of return processes, as well as the perception generated by the "free shipping", has increased the volume of returns. An increase of 3.4% globally in the volume of returns and 1.7% in Europe from 2017 to 2025 is forecast.

The significant increase in shopping volume has led to the entry of new competitors in the last mile market, many of them startups offering end-to-end solutions for retailers and trying to capture the existing surplus demand. Reflecting this is that, in 2021, more than €500 million was invested among logistics and mobility startups in Spain.

All sectors involved in the urban distribution of goods are aware of the new challenges they face, many of them derived, to a large extent, from new consumer habits.

A space for trends

Ineco Impulsa was created with the aim of periodically analysing trends in mobility and market digitalisation, studying and providing formulas and solutions that allow us to respond to the major social, economic and environmental challenges associated with them.

This space has become a key tool to identify opportunities and threats in an increasingly changing and dynamic environment and to contribute to a robust and reliable discussion framework.

Access to the report "Last mile".

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